9's creative vision closes gaps in plot

Despite a lackluster plot and dialogue bordering on awkward, Shane Acker's short film turned apocalyptic thriller, 9, might just be the coolest thing you see this fall.

The story follows nine ragdoll creatures as they fight for survival in the aftermath of a war between humans and sentient technology. When the ragdoll named "9" tries to rescue a fellow ragdoll, he awakens an army of machines. The numbers spend the remainder of the movie trying to take down the army before the robotic head honcho sucks out their souls.

9's action is non-stop and pulse pounding, with camera work worthy of a live action movie and fight scenes that keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Think Terminator Salvation or Transformers shrunk down to Toy Story scale.

As the case has been with many recent movies, however, action doesn't always indicate a thoughtful plot. The story mostly consists of go-here, get-this-thing, go-there, rescue-this-person missions that play out more like a videogame than a movie. Ultimately, 9 feels like what it is: a fantastic short film stretched out into an unsteady 80-minute feature.

But 9 is not really about plot. If you can put your skepticism aside, the visual beauty of the film and its characters will blow you away.

Acker's vision of a post-apocalypse future enraptures the audience from beginning to end. As his little creatures duke it out in windblown war zones and ancient dusty cathedrals, the viewer is completely immersed in a sepia-toned wonderland of devastation.

The sheer creativity in the creation of the nightmarish beasts that stalk our protagonists is worth noting as well. One sports the skull of an animal and shoots sewing needles, while another slithers around like a burlap cobra before opening up to reveal a one-eyed doll head … with fangs. Acker may not be the best storyteller, but he's one heck of an artist.

With corpses, a high casualty count and a strong theme of intellect versus the soul, 9 follows a trend that surfaced with last year's eerie Coraline: animation is at last starting to take itself seriously.

In short, American filmmakers are finally realizing what their Japanese counterparts have known for years: that people will pay to see mature animated movies. If 9 has a good run we may just have a new animated genre on our hands - one that isn't restricted to cute talking animals.

If you're into animation and can get past a weak plot, go out and see 9 while it's in theaters. The eye candy alone is worth the money and unless you have a T.V. that takes up a whole wall, the DVD version won't do it justice.